Amazon Alexa’s smooth, calm voice has become ubiquitous in homes throughout the world, but many people find her to be a bit too neutral when it comes to reading the news and other information. Inflection matters, and Amazon realized that Alexa could be more engaging through a few small changes. The Alexa team took advantage of developments in Neural TTS (or NTTS) technology to improve Alexa’s delivery.
NTTS is short for “neural text-to-speech.” The Alexa team has made use of this technology in the past to create Alexa’s “whisper” mode, and now the team has implemented a “newscaster” voice. Now, if U.S.-based customers ask Alexa “what’s the latest?” she will answer with a tone and cadence similar to how professional newscasters speak.
The use of NTTS technology allows Alexa to alter her responses based on the questions asked. The “newscaster” voice emphasizes specific words and phrases for a more compelling delivery of the news. This is just for Alexa’s specific delivery of the news, however. A different voice is used if you specifically request a different channel for the news, such as Reuters or CNN.
The changes in the news delivery are subtle, but it is easier to tell when a sentence ends or when Alexa is reading a headline.
Andrew Breen, senior manager with the TTS Research team at Amazon, says: “The ability to teach Alexa to adapt her speaking style based on the context of the customer’s request opens the possibility to deliver new and delightful experiences that were previously unthinkable. We’re thrilled that our customers will get to listen to news and Wikipedia information from Alexa in this new way.”
The changes are not limited to just news. The way Alexa reads Wikipedia articles has changed, which makes it far easier to understand the information she provides. As Alexa’s voice continues to develop over time — and her ability to process different requests and questions improves — the possibilities and applications for smart home assistants will grow. In time, Alexa may be able to respond differently based on the way you ask a question. With Whisper Mode and the newscaster voice already in place, it is an exciting time to own an Alexa and follow its development.
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